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Paramedics Hoping Mandatory Vaccination Law Will Change Are ‘Unwise’, Says Chief

Published on: 28 Jan, 2022
Updated on: 1 Feb, 2022

Call staff at South East Coast Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust. Photo – SECAmb.

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

The chief of the ambulance service that covers Surrey has said paramedics declining the mandatory Covid vaccine are “unwise” to hope the law will change.

New legislation means all patient-facing healthcare workers must be fully vaccinated against Covid by the beginning of April this year if they are to continue in their jobs.

With just one week to go until people need to have their first dose in order to get the second in time, South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb) still potentially has more than 120 unjabbed ambulance staff.

“The seriousness of this is absolutely paramount,” said director of operations Emma Williams at the NHS Foundation Trust board meeting yesterday (January 27).

“Everybody has been contacted. This is absolutely the number one show in town.”

“We’ve got a risk here,” said independent non-executive director Howard Goodbourn.

“Thursday (February 3) is the key date; at that point we will know whether we’ve got a major problem of 120 people who can’t work on the frontline.”

Out of 3,325 SECAmb staff in patient-facing roles, 40 are known to be unvaccinated and 82 are still unknown.

Chief executive Philip Astle reached out to those who it was thought may be “hanging on because of all the gossip about the change of legislation and they believe that is going to happen”.

To them he said: “I’ve been around in government for a long time. I’ve never seen the government change a piece of legislation before it’s actually been enacted.

“I think it would be very unwise for people to believe that that is the case.”

Ali Mohammed, executive director of human resource and learning and development, has been holding 1-2-1s and putting out webinars to make sure staff are aware and said he is meeting with the unions “every other day”.

The service is required to look into whether jobs can be readjusted, though he said that was “quite difficult if you’re a frontline paramedic”.

Other ambulance services have asked SECAmb if they have redeployment opportunities and Mr Mohammed said they would prioritise their own staff for call centre roles.

The board heard that London Ambulance Service still doesn’t know if 400 of its employees have been vaccinated.

Ms Williams added: “I want to retain as many of these people as possible but we must adhere to the legislation.

“There is no greyness, this is very much binary – you’re either vaccinated or you’re not, and then there are repercussions of decisions that individuals make.”

Are you a paramedic affected by the forthcoming stipulation to be vaccinated? If so, please have your say by using the “Leave a reply” service below or writing to:

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